When he was an engineering student at Virginia Tech in 1996, Robbie Morris began making decals for his brother’s racing cars. As demand grew, he began running a business out of his dorm room until he decided to leave college and give it his full attention. Today Performance Signs, owned by his wife Katherine, designs, builds, and installs exterior and interior signage, temporary and portable signs, and vehicle signage – now on corporate and municipal fleets instead of just race cars. The company is thriving despite the recession. They just wish they’d known earlier about the resources available through the Central Virginia SBDC.
Robbie admits he had a “misconception that the SBDC was only for start-ups or for companies that were struggling to survive.” He credits their SBDC counselor with helping their business bound to new levels, because she “has broad experience and helps us see what we’re missing.” For example, in the summer of 2009, the company was renting a three-bay facility, when they spotted another building for sale. It seemed ideal for their purposes, so they contacted the SBDC to explore taking advantage of a Small Business Administration loan program funded through the Recovery Act. Their SBDC counselor helped them organize their financial information so that they not only met the loan criteria but had their paperwork in good order. She also helped them find a lender.
With a $600,000 loan in hand, Robbie and Katherine were able to buy the building. With the additional space, they built an extra large bay to increase their volume and meet customer deadlines over the winter months, especially for auto fleet clients. As Katherine points out, “This building makes a better customer impression and enhances our credibility.”
Today the company is busy and planning to hire two more employees to join the three hired in the previous year. Customers who delayed purchasing new vehicles, are now replacing aging fleets. The company is poised for fresh growth with a strong team and with their new building. Katherine chuckles that, while that space first seemed so large, they’re now considering buying nearby land for a warehouse. Their advice to other small businesses is simple: “Find your niche and be really good at one thing” and “start looking for the SBDC resources at the beginning.”